Nate Silver is the 35-year-old data engineer and forecaster with superstar status. He shot to fame in 2008 for correctly predicting the outcome in 49 out of 50 states in the US presidential election. In 2012, when most media pundits and political analysts claimed the US election was "too close to call", Silver trumped them all again, giving Obama a 92% chance of winning. Barack Obama has called him "my rock, my foundation", and Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times described him as "our age's Brunel".
On April 30th he came to Intelligence Squared to discuss the themes of his latest book, 'The Signal and the Noise'. We hear endlessly about Big Data, but when the quantity of data in our world is increasing by 2.5 quintillion bytes per day how can we find the signal in all the noise, the nugget of information that will help us make sense of it all, or maybe even predict the future? Silver explained how expert forecasters think, and describe what lies behind their success, covering the stock market, the poker table, politics, sports, earthquakes, the weather and disease control. With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our forecasts, never has it been more vital to know how to distinguish true insights from the noise of useless data.
'Lord and God of the algorithm!' -- Jon Stewart, Daily Show 'The Galileo of number crunchers' -- The Independent 'A new kind of political superstar' -- The Observer 'A 34-year-old Delphic Oracle' -- The Daily Beast